National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2000

Exploring 3-dimensional oceanographic data sets on the web using Virtual Reality Modeling Language

Moore, C.W., D.C. McClurg, N.N. Soreide, A.J. Hermann, C.M. Lascara, and G.H. Wheless

In Proceedings of Oceans '99 MTS/IEEE Conference, Seattle, WA, 13–16 September 2000, on CD (2000)

Newly emerging Virtual Reality technologies are giving scientists new ways to analyze data that bend the imagination. In fact, the power of Virtual Reality is the ability to immerse in and interact with data. This new experience gives the scientist a chance to gain intuition and insight into complex physical processes. Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) is a file format which allows users to access, navigate, explore, and interact with environmental data in 3-D on the Web, and to share this multidimensional experience with colleagues in remote locations. VRML is platform independent, available to PC users as well as those working on high-end workstations, and viewers or plug-ins are freely available for popular Web browsers, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer.

We will present web-based interfaces that support interactive, 3-D visualizations of oceanographic data drawing on such diverse oceanographic studies as hydrothermal vents, ocean circulation, air-sea interactions, and El Niño studies. The techniques available for scientific data visualization using VRML will be enumerated, and resources for those interested will be given. Demonstrations include real-time El Niño/La Niña data from the TAO network of El Niño monitoring buoys in the tropical Pacific Ocean, Fisheries Oceanography model output animations, hydrothermal plumes from sea floor volcanic eruptions, and global gridded data sets.

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